Keith Bell’s outstanding unbeaten 79 steered Kenilworth Wardens to a survival-boosting three-wicket Birmingham Premier League win at Walmley, writes Paul Smith.
The opener defied a difficult pitch to strike ten boundaries in a typically calm 159-ball knock, which saw the visitors to their 174-run target and delivered a much-needed second consecutive win.
This result lifted Martin Donald’s team out of the relegation zone for the first time since the season’s early weeks and means the clashes with fellow strugglers Wolverhampton and Brockhampton which follow tomorrow’s trip to Kidderminster assume enormous significance.
A tidy spell from the returning Jason Young gave the visitors some much-needed new-ball control but it was five wickets from occasional seamers Tom Brammer and Arjun Bath which put them in charge.
Brammer (3-43) claimed the prize scalps of Scotland’s Freddie Coleman and the heavy-scoring Tom Burton, while Warwickshire’s Pete McKay, who top-scored with 37, edged Bath (2-37) to slip.
At 119 for five, Walmley needed to rebuild, but left-arm spinners Sitanshu Kotak and Matt Hancock ensured they were never able to settle.
The Indian ace claimed two for 21 from 13 impeccable overs, while Hancock snared Dan Choudhary (28) before polishing off the tail to finish with three for 23.
Wardens, who were left with 66 overs to chase their 174-run target, made good progress to 120 for three as useful contributions from Nick Seager (18) and Nathan Edwards (22) provided Bell with good support.
However, Sultan Afzal (2-31) and Mike Waugh (2-20) checked their progress until Brammer’s consecutive boundaries finally clinched a much-needed Wardens win in the 51st over.
Joe Chadwick’s superb 117 enabled Shifnal 2nds to complete a seasonal double over their Wardens counterparts thanks to a 39-run away win.
Chadwick and third-wicket partner Shaun Lorimer (28) launched a thrilling counter-attack, which rebuilt the visitors’ innings after two early Ross Parnell strikes had reduced them to 12 for two.
Charles Kidson (37) lent useful middle-order support and Shifnal looked set for a total close to 300 before Dan Mousley’s excellent spell halted their charge.
The teenage off-spinner dismissed both well-set batsmen, then mopped up the tail to claim a Birmingham League-best five for 45 from 11 excellent overs as the visitors closed on 227 for nine.
Wardens’ response slipped to 50 for three before Harry Johnson and Paul Henderson joined forces in an excellent century partnership.
Henderson followed up his previous Saturday’s ton with a hard-hitting 41 but it was Warwickshire Under-16 batsman Johnson whose assured 65 caught the eye.
However, a final twist remained in an excellent match as fine spells from Neil Lorimer (4-40) and Jake Tanser-Harvey (3-62) won some support from the umpires.
Four lbw decisions swung affairs Shifnal’s way and Wardens were dismissed in the 47th over for 188. Kineton opening bowlers Tom Durnain and James Cooper joined forces with the bat to clinch a remarkable two-wicket win over Wardens’ 3rd XI in Cotswold Hills Division One.
The ninth-wicket pair, who came together with 89 required from 14 overs, took full advantage of a superb Glasshouse Park pitch and quick outfield to despatch the ball to all parts.
Durnain struck eight boundaries in an excellent unbeaten 56-ball 58, while Cooper also reached the ropes eight times in his 29-ball unbeaten 46.
This outstanding partnership saw Kineton home with 16 balls remaining, while Wardens were left to rue three missed chances.
Dave McCunn (1-29) and Matt Casey (1-20) were the pick of the home attack.
Lewis Baker’s aggressive hitting had previously put the hosts in the driving seat at the half-way point.
He smashed four maximums and five fours in a brilliant 43-ball 65, which enabled Wardens to post a useful 243 for eight.
Simon Gough (54) and Paul Smith (45) had earlier added 99 for the hosts’ third wicket before Tom Ballinger chipped in with a breezy 27 to defy the best efforts of Terry Brown (0-16) and Isaac Rowles (1-20).